ADDaptations: When Focus Escapes Us, How Can We Find it Again?

Often my nervous energy comes out when I'm doing something counterproductive--staying up too late, accepting too many social invitations, forgoing exercise, or shirking the quiet time I need to center myself.

It's been a busy spring. One filled with social events, professional development, and perhaps too many responsibilities. During these weeks of go go go my time for runs, for ceramics, for gymnastics, and for writing shrinks, and I find my mind buzzing with the hyperactivity I thought I'd left behind.

But I haven't outgrown ADHD. I've just learned to harness it.

The pursuit of focus is so ingrained in my day-to-day routine that I sometimes forget that every day I keep ADHD at bay. It's a bit like individuals who do well on medication, only to go off it and have the negative symptoms of their condition come rushing back.

In From Where You Dream: The Process of Writing Fiction, Robert Olen Butler describes the "dream space," the "trance state" (p. 20), that artists and athletes slip into when they enter states of focus. He writes, "Psychologists call it the 'flow state,' being in the flow. Athletes call it being 'in the zone'" (pg.21). To find our inner calm, those of us with ADHD must seek that space.

In "One More ADHD Super Power: Hyper Attention", I mention ADHD'rs ability to hyperfocus. It's a magical state, one in which the clutter of the mind evaporates and we seem to exist in a dimension of quiet and of calm. This is our Zen. Some ADHD'rs achieve it with medication, others with lifestyle changes, and still others by changing their diet.

One of my ceramic creatures!
What I've realized over the past few weeks is that the activities that center me are about more than artistry, physicality, and getting published. They're about maintaining the calm state of mind that escapes us ADHD'rs. For me, I achieve Zen not through Yoga or meditation (although I've tried those!), but through writing, sculpting, running, dancing, gymnastics, singing, and, in the past, playing the piano. For whatever reason, these are the hobbies that allow me to sink in that trancelike state.

Sometimes I wish I could forgo the activities that keep me centered, the hours spent doing physical activities to just relax a moment. To be. But the truth is, when I put off those runs, those pre-dawn writing sessions, my body's rhythm teeters and I find myself unable to focus. And unfocused, I have trouble engaging each day.

What activities keep you focused? Do you find that your mood shifts when you're not attending to the needs of your body and mind?

Know that the body is a fragile jar,
And make a castle of your mind.
In every trial
Let understanding fight for you
To defend what you have won.
-"Mind," The Dhammapada as translated by Thomas Byrom (p. 32).